Resuscitating Libya in Malta?
The Dialogue Committee, an amorphous unelected body with vague prerogatives, was the brainchild of the Spanish Signor Leon; the second UN special Commissioner to Libya.
The two-day London meeting was attended by the Libyan Presidency Council chairman Faiez Serraj and other high officials, as well as the US Secretary of State John Kerry, and the British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson. Though the meetings were to focus on the economy, the presence of the French, Italians, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia was indicative of a quest for a wider political settlement. The Libyans included Central Bank governor Siddig Elkabir and the National Oil Corporation boss Sanallah, who has seen oil production surge since the Army wrested the Oil Crescent terminals from the control of the old Petroleum Facilities Guard led by a maverick. The chairman of the Libyan Investment Authority was noticeably absent.
The main paradox that marked the London meeting however was the absence of a joint-statement on its deliberations and decisions. In separate press statements the Libyan financial players were urged to work together. The Bank of Libya and the Libyan Auditor Office later issued explanatory statements. The real reason for such odd conduct was that the meeting could make no constitutionally-binding decisions. The Libyan leader Sarraj heads a formation, namely the GNA government which has yet to be approved by the Libyan (Tobruk) Parliament, while the Bank of Libya is also an extension of that Parliament which was not even invited to the meeting. The Libyan National Auditor has no right to meddle in politics either. Hence the odd reticence over what was decided. Now some way out has to be concocted to overcome such constitutional transgressions, regardless of the declared intentions of the coming Malta meeting.
The essence of the Libyan crisis has been and remains the political rivalries of largely armed groups. The GNA is incarcerated in a small naval base in the capital which is controlled by such antagonistic militias. Furthermore, authority in the country is divided between the GNA and the army headed by General Hefter in the east of historical Cyrenaica. The current crisis cannot approach resolution unless such absurdities are attended to.
It is pertinent here to repeat the words of Charlotte Leslie, a British Conservative Party politician and MP, who warned a month ago of the dangers of antagonizing the elected Tobruk Parliament, adding that regardless of Britain’s view of the person of General Hefter, one could not ignore the fact that he has rebuilt the Libyan Army, adding that such men are controversial anyway.
On my way to Malta the other day, I noticed that a European diplomat involved in the Libyan crisis was travelling, economy class, on the same flight. In a brief chat, he remarked that the Libyan impasse is due to selfish leaders who couldn’t care less about the future of their country. I commented: “Perhaps you’re talking to the wrong people.” He smiled and I wished us both a safe flight.
The diplomat’s statement surely points to one crucial move. The present ruling Libyan political crew, three governments and two parliaments have to admit they have completely failed to control Libya’s afflictions and miseries and must step out of the picture.
The next step could be to form a Transitional National Unity government whose members are selected on the basis of ability and not, as is the case now, on affiliation to region or tribe. Such an approach will also have to include commanders of armed groups who are of varied convictions. A transitional consultative chamber with a manageable number could be selected from the present bodies.